Cape Elizabeth’s Ceroi Mello and Nick Laughlin chase down during Leavitt’s Maddox Demers during a regular-season game in Turner on Oct. 7. Leavitt won, 21-20. The teams meet again Saturday night for the Class C South championship. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

Cape Elizabeth and Leavitt don’t have a long history of meeting on the football field, but recent clashes have turned the budding rivalry into one of the hottest in Maine high school football.

“It really is one of the most fun times when I go up against those guys,” said Cape senior captain Luke Mello, a fullback and outside linebacker. “Leavitt is a very talented team and it really brings out in me why I love the sport so much, just that competition.”

In the last two seasons, the teams have met three times. Leavitt won both regular-season games – 39-27 in 2021 and 21-20 this season – but Cape won the Class C South final in 2021, 25-23, on a touchdown as time expired.

The teams meet again at 6 p.m. Saturday with another trip to the Class C state championship game on the line. The past three meetings have all been in Turner. This time, No. 1 Leavitt (9-0) will face No. 3 Cape Elizabeth (8-2) at Lewiston High. The game was originally scheduled for Friday night in Turner, but the condition of Leavitt’s field, combined with Friday’s forecast for heavy rain, led to a date and location change.

Leavitt won the 2019 state championship with a 12-0 record, including a 30-12 win over the Cape. The Capers won the 2021 title.

“I would definitely say that – from talking to players on both sides, and coaches on both sides – you can call this a rivalry,” said Cape’s fourth-year head coach, Sean Green.


Over the last two seasons, Leavitt is 16-1 and has outscored its opponents by an average of 28.8 points. The Hornets had four games in that span decided by less than 20 points. Three came against Cape Elizabeth, including the lone loss when Cape chewed up the final 10 minutes of last year’s South final with an 18-play, 57-yard drive capped by quarterback Caden McDuffie’s 3-yard run.

Cape Elizabeth has been just as dominant statistically. The Capers are 18-3 over the last two years, outscoring their opponents by 29.4 points per game. Wells is the only team other than Leavitt to beat Cape (28-21 this season), and also the only other opponent to lose to Cape by less than 17 points (in 2021).

“Essentially there’s a quality on both sides of the board, from coaching, from talent, from effort, the culture – all those things,” Green said. “I think we’re very similar programs.”

Leavitt quarterback Noah Carpenter has thrown 23 touchdown passes this season and leads the Hornets with 17 rushing touchdowns. Daryn Slover/Sun Journal

The major difference, particularly this year, is offensive approach, says Leavitt Coach Mike Hathaway.

“You look at Cape, they want to be physical, run right at you, and then hit their guy (Nick) Laughlin for big plays,” Hathaway said. “We probably throw more and spread the ball around a little more than they do. The schemes are similar, but the way we distribute the ball is different. Defensively, the two teams are playing the same odd-front, a 3-4 (defense), the same way with the same philosophy.”

Behind the stellar play of junior quarterback Noah Carpenter, who has completed 98 of 146 passes for 1,623 yards and 23 touchdowns, Leavitt is averaging 42.8 points per game. Carpenter threw for six touchdowns to four different receivers and ran for a seventh score in a 64-28 semifinal win against Cheverus.


Receiving threats include Sawyer Hathaway (38 receptions, 652 yards, 8 TDs), tight end Brett Coburn (27 catches, 456, yards, seven TDs) and slot back Dayton Calder (23 catches 388 yards, five TDs). Carpenter (851 yards, 17 TDs) and Calder (533 yards, seven TDs) are the top ball carriers.

Cape Elizabeth has been productive – 35.1 points per game – but is more reliant on Laughlin, who has used tackle-breaking power, agility and breakaway speed to score 29 touchdowns (17 rushing, 10 receiving, two kick returns). According to Green, Laughlin has had 15 touchdowns negated by penalty, including two in a 20-14 regional semifinal at Wells.

Cape Elizabeth’s Nick Laughlin has scored 29 touchdowns this season: 17 rushing, 10 receiving and two via kick returns. Brianna Soukup/Staff Photographer

Another of Laughlin’s non-touchdowns came in Leavitt’s 21-20 win in Week 6. A holding penalty on an inside run wiped out a roughly 20-yard Laughlin touchdown that would have put Cape ahead, 26-21, with three minutes to play. A few plays later, Sawyer Hathaway intercepted Mike Foley with 1:11 remaining. Cape had a 355-202 edge in yardage but had 12 penalties for 120 yards and the game’s only two turnovers.

“At the end of the day, we did lose to them,” Mello said, “but I’d like to think we’re right up on them.

“I believe if our team is able to give an A-plus effort and Leavitt does the same, we’ll come out on top. “I expect nothing less (from Leavitt). They better be giving us their 100 percent.”

For Hathaway, in his 21st year as the Hornets’ head coach, the rivalry goes back to the 2009 Class B state championship game.


“The first time we met was in 2009. That really started it,” Hathaway said.

Both teams entered 11-0. Leavitt won, 35-21. It was the first of Hathaway’s three state titles and six state final trips. Cape, coached at the time by Aaron Filieo, was playing in its first championship game in its sixth season as a varsity program.

Leavitt also beat Cape Elizabeth in the 2013 and 2018 regional playoffs.

“You keep playing these good games and it builds things up,” Hathaway said. “You have two programs that are really, really competitive, and you have some pretty good coaches, and a lot of these games have come down to the end and with some drama.”

Related Headlines

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.